Review from The Age by Cameron Woodhead: March 4, 2016
A moving tribute to the courage and resilience of migrants, and an open road into the Greek soul, Taxithi: An Australian Odyssey sprang from interviews Helen Yotis Patterson conducted with 20 Greek women who sailed to this country in the ’50s and ’60s.
A seamless hybrid of story and song, it fuses verbatim theatre with fierce, melancholy rebetika – urban folk music which flourished into a distinctive popular form during the same period the Greek diaspora unfurled itself across the globe. Shards of recollection become sharp vignettes, honed by anguish and passion, freedom and loss.
Some shared experiences emerge: the women sent away due to arranged marriages with men they’d never met, or because their parents couldn’t pay another dowry; those who fled the extreme poverty in Greece after WWII, or the terror of the military junta that assumed power after the coup of 1967.
Other moments stand in dramatic contrast: the woman who slogs at a menial job to escape an abusive relationship; another separated from her lover at an Australian port, only to be reunited months later after an extensive search.
Gently suggesting the three Fates of Greek myth, Yotis Patterson, Artemis Ioannides and Maria Mercedes slip through various incarnations with grace and emotive intensity.
Authentic storytelling abounds, but it is the songs – sung in Greek, and skilfully arranged by Andrew Patterson for piano and bouzouki (Jacob Papadopoulos) – that carry much of the freight of feelings too vast to be spoken.
Director Petra Kalive’s sensitive direction sweeps you along on complex currents of nostalgia, letting these migrant stories speak for themselves. The political does emerge from the personal – one woman voices her bewilderment at Australia’s current refugee policy – yet the most powerful argument for compassion is implied, simply from the richness of the lives represented.
It may have special significance to Australians with Greek heritage, but all of us should be edified and entertained by this deeply affecting window into the migrant experience.